US 7086769 B1
A signage device (10) in which a housing (12) receives a circuit board (30) having a plurality of spaced-apart light sources (38) to define at least one symbol and overlaid by a message plate (42) having a projecting channel (46) with a translucent light emitting side (54) aligned with the light sources and a light blocking overlay sheet (60) defining an open slot (62) configured for mating reception of the projecting channel, whereby light from the light sources communicates from the light emitting surface of the channel extending from the overlay sheet.
1. A signage device, comprising:
a housing that receives a circuit board having a plurality of spaced-apart light sources to define at least one symbol;
a message channel spaced from the circuit board and formed of a translucent material, having spaced-apart side walls and a closed distal side defining a light emitting surface opposing an open side of the message channel that is aligned with the light sources on the circuit board; and
a light blocking overlay sheet defining an open slot configured for aligned reception of the message channel therein,
whereby light from the light sources communicates from the light emitting surface of the distal side of the message channel.
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22. A signage device, comprising:
a housing having a back and an upstanding perimeter wall, the back defining an opening therein;
a circuit board disposed within the housing and having a fastener extending through the opening in the back of the housing to secure the circuit board therein;
a plurality of spaced-apart light sources mounted to the lighting circuit board to define at least one symbol;
a message plate formed of a translucent material having a relatively minor thickness and a relatively major longitudinal extent to define a thin plate having a major surface that has a planar portion and a U-shaped projecting channel defining a distal surface between substantially parallel opposing side walls and an opening opposing the distal surface,
the projecting channel defining a symbol corresponding to the symbol defined by the light sources,
and a perimeter skirt extending from the planar portion in a direction opposing the projecting channel,
the message plate received on the lighting circuit board with the light sources aligning with the channel, with an apex of the light source spaced from the distal surface of the channel by the skirt spacing the message plate from the circuit board;
a light blocking overlay sheet defining an opening configured for mating reception of the projecting channel of the message plate therein,
whereby light from the light sources communicates from the distal surface of the channel extending through the opening in the overlay sheet as a signage device.
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The present invention relates to signage devices. More particularly, the present invention relates to illuminated signage devices for displaying messages of text and symbols.
Signs are important devices used for display of information including text messages and symbols. Commercial establishments often use signs for attracting the attention of prospective customers. Signs provide readily observable information as to services and products offered at the business, as well as provide ornamental features, through display of symbols and graphics, including trademarks and logos.
Signs take on different forms, including printed non-illuminated signs and illuminated signs. Illuminated signs can be internally lighted or externally lighted. Neon signs are one type of internally lighted illuminated sign. Neon signs are formed from elongated glass tubes that are bent into shapes to form letters (typically) but also to form ornamental designs or symbols. The glass tube contains neon gas that upon excitement by high voltage illuminates with a vibrant color having a substantially even glow. The vibrant color attracts the attention of prospective customers while the even glow provides uniformity in appearance of the sign.
While neon signs are ornamentally attractive, there are drawbacks to their use. The glass tubes are susceptible to breakage, so neon signs must be handled with care and positioned so that they are not susceptible to contact or movement. Manufacture of neon signs is labor intensive, particularly in that the glass tubes are formed by hand craft. Neon signage typically is expensive due to these factors. Neon signage also requires strong, rigid supports for the glass tube and for the electrical equipment to power the sign.
Recently, developments have been made in signage devices that provide the advantageous illuminative effects of neon signage while reducing the susceptibility to these drawbacks. These developments include the use of discrete, brilliant light emitting sources, such as light emitting diodes (LEDS) that are disposed in a spaced-apart association with elongated thin-wall translucent members. However, the use of discrete light sources may create non-uniform emissions of light from the light emitting surfaces. These variations in intensity or “hot spots” result in light emission areas that are more brilliant than a desired overall uniformity of glow. In response, other developments have provided what is said to be enhanced uniformity with satisfactory brightness. Devices that gainfully use such developments however continue to require significant labor to manufacture.
Nevertheless, there remains a need in the art for signage devices that provide desirable neon light characteristics without the associated significant labor costs and while reducing the susceptibility of the signage devices to problems associated with neon signs and electronic signs that replicate neon signage lighting. It is to such that the present invention is directed.
The present invention meets the need in the art by providing a signage device in which a housing receives a circuit board having a plurality of spaced-apart light sources arranged to define a symbol. A message plate has a projecting channel with a translucent light emitting side that aligns with the light sources. A light blocking overlay sheet defines an open slot configured for mating reception of the projecting channel, whereby light from the light sources communicates from the light emitting surface of the channel extending from the overlay sheet.
Objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description in conjunction with the drawings and the appended claims.
Turning now to the drawings, in which like parts have like identifiers throughout the several views,
The circuit board 30 mounts in the recess defined by the tray 20. A plurality of projections 36 extend in spaced-apart relation from the bottom 22 of the tray 20. The projections 36 dispose the circuit board 30 spaced-apart from the bottom 22. The electrical socket 26 mounts to the circuit board 30 and has a portion that extends through the opening in the bottom 22. In this embodiment, the socket 26 includes a threaded exterior, and a nut attaches to the exterior from outside the tray 20 to connect the circuit board 30 to the tray.
The circuit board 30 includes a plurality of point light sources 38 such as light emitting diodes (LEDs). The light sources 38 are connected in an electrical circuit for illuminating a plurality of the light source, and as such is well known in the art, no further discussion is made, except to note that the light sources or LEDs can be selectively illuminated in sequence, illuminated together, or illuminated randomly. It is to be further appreciated that while the LEDs may be of a common type or color, variation in color can be made by alternate LEDs, and as well as with different control circuitry for illuminating such. The light sources 38 are arranged in a pattern to display a symbol 40, such as a letter element of a text message, a graphic image, trademark image or logo, or other such symbol.
A sign plate 42 overlies the circuit board 30. The sign plate 42 is made from a sheet of translucent material having a substantially uniform thickness. The sign plate 42 includes a substantially planar portion 44 from which channels 46 extend in a first direction. The channels 46 in cross-sectional view have substantially parallel opposing sidewalls 48, 50 with an open side 52 and an opposing closed side 54 that defines a light emitting surface. In the illustrated embodiment, the channels 46 have arcuate distal ends for light emitting surfaces that suggest curved glass tubes of neon signs. However, the distal end of the channels 46 can have other cross-sectional shapes, including planar, non-planar, or projecting members, lugs, spikes, textures, or other ornamental treatments. The channels 46 cooperatively define at least one symbol 56 that corresponds in outline to the symbol 40 defined by the light sources 38 on the circuit board 30.
A perimeter skirt 58 extends substantially perpendicularly from the planar portion 44 in a direction opposing the projecting channels 46. As illustrated in
The sign plate 42 is readily manufactured using a conventional vacuum/heated molding process in which the translucent sheet is heated and the projections formed by vacuum pulling the softened flexible sheet into cavities defined in the mold. Further, dielectric or non-electrically conductive members can be disposed between the circuit board 30 and the sign plate 42 to support and space the sign plate 42 relative to the circuit board across the length and width of the sign plate.
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It is to be appreciated that variances in the components of the signage device 10 have affects on the uniformity of the light emitted from the light emitting surface by the ends of the channels 46, the brightness of the light, and the possibility of “hot spots”. This refers to portions of the light emitting surface having a brighter appearance than adjacent portions. The spacing between the point light sources 38 mounted to the circuit board 30 affects the brightness and the uniformity of the light emitted from the light emitting surfaces of the channels 46. Closer spacing between the channel and the point light sources increases perceived brightness, but may result in “hot spots”. The selected intensity of the light sources 38 provide a selected brighter or dimmer light appearance. A brighter appearance however may lead to hot spots and a shorter life for the light source although fewer LEDs may be required. Light sources 38 which are less bright require more LEDs for comparable brightness to brighter light sources. Fewer light sources incurs lower costs but may have a less satisfactory level of brightness.
The light dispersing characteristics of the LEDs used for the light sources 38 affects the uniformity of the light emitted from the channels 46. This includes the focal angle, and the size and shape of the area that the light source uniformly lights. The light emitted through the channels 46 also is affected by the distance between the light sources 38 and the sign plate 42. Closer positioning provides less uniform light emission and potentially leads to hot spots. Changing the light transmissiveness of the translucent material for the sign plate 42 impacts the brightness and uniformity of the emitted light. A material that has lower light transmission properties results in decreased brightness but increased light uniformity over a material having greater light transmission properties. With these guidelines, one can appreciate how combinations of these variances can impact the brightness and uniformity of the emitted light.
In the illustrated embodiment, the LED light sources 38 are spaced on 0.5 inch centers and use COTCO LED model no. L0566THR4-70G 70° oval LED lamps in high red color with tinted defused lens and stopper. The light sources 38 are mounted to the circuit board 30 in alignment with a medial longitudinal axis of the channels 46 and are disposed about 0.5 inches below the opening of the projection 46 in the sign plate 42.
The steps 89 seat on the shoulders 92 of the slot 90, and thereby fixing the distal top 88 relative to a light source 38 (not illustrated). The sign plate 81 can be opaque to the transmission of light, or alternatively, include a light blocking coating, film, or other light-blocking member. In one embodiment, the sign plate 81 receives a painted coating. The sign plate 81 sits on the circuit board 30 in a sign housing, or with spacers, is disposed in spaced-apart relation to the circuit board.
A sign plate 120 includes through slots 122 that define shapes for symbols, letters, numbers, and the like. The slots 122 receive channels 80 that conform to the slots. The sign plate 120 includes a plurality of extending supports 124. A distal end of each of the supports 124 defines a recess 126 that matingly engages the distal end 114 of an aligned one of the support posts 108. The connection of the support 124 and the post 108 spaces the sign plate 120 an appropriate distance from the light source 38 mounted to the circuit board 30 for communication of light through the channel 90. The side plate 120 is opaque as discussed above with respect to the sign plate 81, to restrict the communication of light except through the channel 80 received in the slot 122.
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Alternate embodiments of the light-blocking overlay 60 include an opaque paint or a thin sheet member that attaches to the sign panel 42, to define a light passageway therethrough substantially aligned with light sources 38.
The present invention accordingly provides a low cost, readily manufactured signage device using point light sources to affect a uniform glow in vibrant colors for simulating neon signage. The specification accordingly has described the present invention for an improved LED illuminated signage device, including the steps necessary for making and using various embodiments thereof. It is to be understood, however, that numerous changes and variations may be made in the construction of the LED illuminated signage devices within the spirit and scope of the present invention, and that modifications and changes may be made therein without departing from the scope thereof as set forth in the appended claims.
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